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Year of Pain, Year of Humble November 13, 2014

IMG_7202Last week, after I spoke on a panel on reproductive stigma and justice, an audience member came up to me and said, “I know you.” I looked at her. I didn’t recognize her at all – a warm smile, brown skin, dimples. I squinted and said, “Really!” She said, “You’re Foodie McBody. I follow your blog!”

I was overwhelmed by a storm of thoughts and emotion. What blog? Hahaha. I haven’t posted a thing in months. And who? Foodie McWho? That person was a person who had receded so far away from me. I’d changed my Twitter handle and Instagram name, and nobody called me that anymore.

Foodie McBody was a person who, once upon a time, took her health by the reins and galloped into a transformation. There were years of glory. The first 5k! The Weight Watchers Lifetime key! The 10ks, the half marathons. Four of them. The two triathlons and more 5ks than I could count. I loved my health and loved my active body and I was just proud and glad, even through the struggles. I had little bouts here and there – a sprained ankle, a wrist flareup. But they all resolved within a month or two, and then I was back in the saddle again.

But then 2013 happened. I call it my year of pain. When my hip gave up after the Oakland half marathon, my last, and told me I might need to get it replaced. And then the fateful bounce on the trampoline that ruptured my cervical discs and brought me to a halt. When I could do nothing more than move, agonizingly, from one horizontal position to the next. Surgery, recovery and rehab in small, tentative steps.

2014 was supposed to be my comeback year. But it has not been that. After a brief triumphant walking 5k at the start of the year, I have been plagued by a thyroid condition that stalled my metabolism, and a foot ailment that won’t let up. Plantar fasciitis turned to posterior tibialis tendinitis leading to some sort of Achilles problem. My Achilles heel, indeed. Every morning I hobble out of bed like a 90 year old. Actually, I hobble out of bed more painfully and slowly than my own 92 year old mother, which is humbling, to say the least.

my Achilles heel

my Achilles heel

Do I want some cheese with my whine? Well, why not.

2014 has been the year of humble. But if I’m honest I also have to admit that it’s been a year of fear. Recently our family re-watched Spirited Away, one of those hallucinogenic Miyazaki films. One of the most disgusting images is this creature, the Hungry Ghost, that eats everything in sight – frogs, bicycles, humans, and keeps wanting more. It grows into a mountainous blob of sludge, its arms outstretched, and stinkily consumes everything in sight. When our young heroine refuses to be intimidated by the ghost, and doesn’t run away from it, it starts expelling the contents of its innards. Finally it shrinks to a fraction of its enormous size, and silently boards an underwater train, presumably bound for freedom.

That image has haunted me. And I think that that creature is like my fear. It reminds me of the Before version of Foodie McBody. Before I charged into healthy living in 2009, I was afraid of everything. Afraid to move. Even when it felt good.

For much of the time these days, I am paralyzed by fear. Only recently I’ve been able to venture into small, almost laughable activities. I join a weekly AquaFIt class at our pool, where most of the participants are ten, twenty or even thirty years my senior. For an hour we splash around the pool with foam weights and noodles. It feels like play, but when I climb out of the pool, I have to admit it’s kicked my butt.

I walk silently in the redwood forest near my house. Today I did a silent walk and in the quiet green I thought about my fear. The sky was white, a little blue, like the inside of an ice cube. The air I moved through was chilly and perfect, and the sun blinked uncertainly through the clouds every now and then. What am I afraid of? I am afraid of pain. My left heel sent out little jolts. So what, I said. So what. It’s not killing you. I notice. What do I notice. It’s like electricity. It’s like heat. It’s like a twangy little song reminding me that I’m alive. I liked the feeling of my legs. I still have muscles there. They’re still strong. I pushed up the gentle incline and I didn’t wheeze. I didn’t die from shortness of breath. I was doing it. It was just a walk. Calm down, I told myself. You’re okay. There’s nothing to be afraid of.

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Worse than the pain, though, is the shame. The pain of shame. Of knowing where I was three years ago, that relentless athlete that swam in the icy, salty bay. The one who looked fear in the face and climbed on the bicycle, up hills, up so many hills, near whizzing cars and dogs. I ran and ran and ran. Three or four days a week, tweeting about my six pain free miles, my happy eight miles. These days I would consider it a victory to walk a 5k, to make it around Lake Merritt without sitting down, without limping. This is the greatest pain. To look in my closet and push aside the majority of the clothes, because nothing fits.

How to find compassion? That is what I want for 2015. The year of compassion. To say, it’s all right. You’re okay, whether you never complete another triathlon again. Whether those 15 pounds stick around like old friends. You’re okay. You’re okay.

These days do not look like 2010 or 2011. These days look like walking in the beautiful trees, like greeting my gray haired companions in the shallow end of the pool. Of meditating every morning, first in silence and then listening to the calm, warm voice of my teacher, leading me through the compassion meditation. Open to the possibility of being kind to yourself, he says. Open to the possibility of appreciating your life.

I’m open.

my walking meditation path

my walking meditation path

 

The Long Road Back February 22, 2014

Filed under: challenge,exercise,injury,lessons learned,running — Susan @ 8:00 pm

photo credit: Unsplash/Sylwia Bartyzel

Last night, I had a dream about trying to do a triathlon. It was a short, “fun” triathlon and I recall that maybe I just showed up, hoping to participate. But I couldn’t find any of my gear. I had to leave the course and run into a nearby apartment building and run up 3 flights of stairs to some random apartment to get my running shoes, or bike helmet or something. Then I came back down and I couldn’t find my bike. Where are the bikes? I asked frantically. I could see the very last, slow runners coming in to the finish. Someone said, the bikes were “over by the lake” wherever that was. Somewhere out of sight. I realized, with a sinking feeling, that I did not have my act together and even if I found my bike and the lake I would never finish in time. My friend, who had finished the race, showed me the “medal” which turned out to be a piece of tacky plastic like one would get from a gum ball machine. The whole thing made me wake up sad.

Sometimes I see photos of my prior teammates working out, training for marathons and triathlons and big rides and such and I can’t believe that that used to be me, training hard six days a week. These days I am feeling pretty bad-ass if I can accomplish a short little half-walk half run. I’ve been back to Couch to 5k, but it’s a very slow process and nothing like it was the first time.

The GOOD news is (in case this turns into a total whine fest!) that I’m both getting physical therapy (2x a week, which is helping SO MUCH) and have also returned to seeing patients as a physical therapist. It’s a little surreal, but it feels good to be out and about in my little car, in this beautiful weather (sorry, non-Californians) and helping people in their homes. I am so awed by my own PT who has crazy mad skills and has helped me have the first pain-free run I’ve had in almost a year. So YAY for that.

I’m moving my focus back toward writing again, and that also feels really good. I have a book coming out with SheBooks in the near future (believe me, you’ll hear all about it!) and next week I’m traveling up to Seattle for a writers’ conference. SUPER BIG YAY!

I’m still here. I’m walking around, and every so often I even break into a little jog ;-). I’m going to be trying to figure out my upcoming races – I would love to do the Oakland Running Festival and See Jane Run this year. Anyone else??

 

 

Book Review: Ultimate Booty Workouts! February 3, 2014

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I’m going to be totally honest here. Normally, I would not be on the lookout for a book called Ultimate Booty Workouts. But I happen to think that its author, Tamara Grand, is FANTASTIC and so when it was published hot off the presses very recently, I could not resist a peek inside.

I don’t really give my booty- I mean- as a booty – much thought. I think of it as a stack of flattish pancakes somewhere back there. But as a physical therapist, and as a recently injured/surgeried person, I do think give my whole hip-pelvic-gluteal area a LOT of thought. It has undergone a lot of deconditioning and resulting instability. And as I read through this incredibly thorough, thoughtful, clear and well-written book, I thought, “Whoa. My booty does need some help!”

I have so much admiration for Tamara. She is not only an inspiring personal trainer, she is also a good writer, a super kind person, a KNITTER (something I feel is so out of my capable-zone!), a cool mom and a great friend.

First off, I will say that I loooooove the many dozens of photos of the Real Tamara doing the Real Workouts in this book. I WISH WISH WISH that her own beautiful face (and booty) were gracing the COVER of the book. Because when I picked it up, I immediately thought, “Who’s THAT? That’s not Tamara!” Okay, whatever. Get beyond the cover and open up and all the wonderful insides will become very obvious.

the real Tamara!

the real Tamara!

But don’t just look at all the awesome and helpful pictures. READ THE WORDS. Because I loved what the words said! In addition to the great visuals of the various workouts, there are also extremely helpful sections (DO NOT SKIP!) about women and weight lifting, nutrition, weight loss, posture, injury prevention (and rehabilitation). In other words, it’s NOT JUST about your booty.

As I flipped through the pictures, so many of them were familiar to me. I had already done so many of these (and had a love-hate relationship as well) and had no idea that they were doing such good things for my bootycore. Which in turn is doing such good things for my hip and my abs and all the other stuff it’s connected to (ie., almost EVERYthing). And because there are lots of upper-body and leg strengthening workouts as well, it’s really about your whole body. It would be impossible to do these workouts without also getting some pretty darn strong arms and legs as well. There are fabulous and very important sections on warming-up and cooling down. And stretching. With a foam roller!

I am going to put my two cents in and say that I think this book should be re-titled (Not Just Your) Ultimate Booty Workouts.” Because truly there is so much good stuff in here. I have begun doing some of the exercises, gingerly and gradually, and darn, it feels good. To wake up my little stack o’pancakes.

 

Photo Shoot (Me) January 10, 2014

silly shot with Junior & Juniorette

silly shot with Junior & Juniorette (photo credit: Laura Duldner)

About a month ago, I got an email from someone at a diabetes publication, saying they’d found my blog and wanted to interview me. Yay! I like doing interviews. I was feeling good about my 5-year (!) healthaversary coming up, and it felt great to commemorate it like this. Five years!

The phone interview was fun. I blathered on. The writer who was interviewing me asked a lot about advice I’d give someone who was newly diagnosed. I realized the stuff that helped me then is the stuff that continues to help me now; i.e.. small changes. That is why Weight Watchers, Couch to 5k , #wycwcy (What-You-Can-When-You-Can) and other small, gradual steps have made all the difference, both at the beginning and on an ongoing basis. In many ways, I am starting from the beginning again.

After the interview, the writer said they could find some pictures here from my blog, or I could send some. Then a few days later I got an email saying that they’d like to “send a photographer.” SEND a photographer? Here?

Yes. And then last week I heard from the photographer herself. I had NO IDEA what big-deal photos she had taken (look here and have a heart attack like I did). She informed me that I was going to be on the COVER of the magazine and did I have a hair stylist? A makeup person? (#faint) I hurriedly went to check out this magazine and saw… 40 million readers… and the people on the cover? Gulp. Looked to be about twenty years old.

It threw me into a tizzy of anxiety, nerves, wanting to eat Everything In Sight, and just have a general meltdown.

Monday came. My hair stylist (aka my regular person who sweetly offered to come to my house before work) and my Makeup Person (friend of mine, who I had a vague idea “did makeup” but again had no clue what a pro she is!) arrived. I threw every piece of clothing I owned onto my bed in a fit of despair and I-Have-NOTHING-To-Wear!!

The hair blowout was fine. I was used to that. But then… the makeup… OMG.

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trying to be cool as a cucumber

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a bit beyond my usual naked face + Burts Bees tinted chapstick

The photographer arrived early, to “scout out” the house and surroundings for suitable backdrops. She decided on the front porch and “yard” (it’s more of an overgrown jungle). She got her equipment set up while I got my Face on. It took like 90 minutes which was fascinating and also kind of overwhelming. I felt like a painter’s canvas! But the end result was the most natural makeup I’ve ever worn and I still felt pretty much like me. Whew.

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me + Junior, and sans glasses

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She’s not messin around. So… I guess they didn’t like the Instagram selfie I sent in?

We took about a gazillion shots on the front porch and in the yard. Many outfit changes. Sweaters. Scarves. Running clothes. Medals. No medals. Rocky shot! I have-to-pee shot! (apparently this “elongates” the body- who knew? one could look so svelte when waiting in line at Portopotties?) We even went up to the park nearby (where I usually run) and I did some fake-running while she photographed me from her belly on the very edge of the trail. I pretty much had to run OVER her body while she exhorted me to “Keep coming at me, at me, at me!!” She had to do a costume change herself when we got back to to the house, so encrusted she was in trail stuff.

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She really worked for her money that day!

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Here she demonstrates the “have to pee” pose. Very elongated!

It turned out to be, after all, a lot more fun and a lot less stressful than I anticipated. The stress happened before and… after.

It was pretty trippy to do this. It messed with my head in various ways. Of all the magazines to be on the cover of, I was pretty proud and happy to be on a diabetes health magazine. (the only one I could ever hope for is to be on the cover of THIS magazine) I loved doing the interview. But the focus on my physical appearance for hours on end was just unnerving. I’m not used to it, and it just made me all discombobulated. I got really unbalanced. I sort of lost it a little. I was anxious and moody and jumpy and weepy. I found myself thinking crazy thoughts like, I hope they PhotoShop me. (even though I am so against that kind of thing!)

Going for a run-walk near the beach brought me back to myself yesterday. As did returning to a beginning meditation class this week. This is tricky stuff, y’all…

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running the next day

 

My 5th Healthaversary is Coming: Hot Chocolate 5k with me! December 15, 2013

hot-chocolate-logoEvery January, I reflect back on January 2009, when I first started this blog. I think about how I felt back then. Scared, unhealthy, hopeless. And how far I’ve come. Even with this recent injury, I always knew that I had a core of well being inside that wasn’t going to go away even if I couldn’t do much.

This coming January will be my 5th healthaversary. Five years! And I’m going to celebrate in two ways. One, I’m going to participate in the Hot Chocolate 5k on January 12th in San Francisco. I would LOVE to have as many friends doing it with me. A hot chocolate party! It comes in both 5k and 15k distances. And the “swag bag” is crazy awesome – it’s actually a fleece jacket! What!

2013-HC-this-is-your-goodie-bag_WITH-sizing-chartI’ll also be hosting my traditional walk-to-the-labyrinth and brunch at another time, but I realllly wanted to do something “5-ish” for this special five year commemoration. After the ordeal I went through this fall, I am more grateful than ever for my health. This will be the first 5k since my injury. I am hopeful and optimistic that I will be able to complete the 5k, most likely walking. That pesky hip injury I was dealing with BEFORE my ruptured disc? It’s talking to me again (sigh).

So please please please sign up! 15k or 5k, your choice. You can run like a gazelle or waddle like a wombat (that’ll be me). It’s probably going to be chillyish but we will have some cozy fleece! And hot cocoa! It will be a big, beautiful, Foodie McBody Party. No running necessary! (but it’s certainly allowed and encouraged if you like running)

PRICES ARE GOING UP DECEMBER 30th so please take advantage of the early pricing. If you use the code FOODFOODMUG, you will also get a free hot chocolatey mug on race day. Yay swag!

PRP-Snack-Tray

And…. Ta-da!! As an official Hot Chocolate Blogger, I have been authorized to give away one FREE RACE REGISTRATION!

This has been a really amazing five years. The most challenging, exciting, incredible five years of my life. I’m ready to celebrate.  Join me!

If you want a chance to be the recipient of this free registration, leave me a comment here below and tell me FIVE THINGS that keep you healthy! Also, follow the Hot Chocolate 15/5k on Twitter and Facebook to get all the sweet details.

And the winner of the race registration is… JULES!! Congrats, Jules, I’ll be sending you your registration code. Can’t wait to see you (and everyone else!) out there on January 12th!

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Back In the World (Sort of.) November 23, 2013

#throwbackthursday: sometimes I have to hold onto stuff.

#throwbackthursday: sometimes I have to hold onto stuff.

Little by little. I’m venturing out. I’m doing small things, both in and out of the house.

Everything feels huge. HUGE. The first time I drove the car last week, I felt like a sixteen year old with a new permit, gripping the wheel with white knuckles, waiting long minutes before pulling into traffic. Testing out my neck, my reflexes, my attention, my ability to focus on more than one thing at a time. (the radio, other cars, my husband’s voice) I drove about 5 miles to drop my mother off at her volunteering gig.

I am humbled and amused that my 90 year old mother has about 100x more stamina and energy than I do. She can spend a day stuffing envelopes, come home and walk the dog, then go out to a Golden State Warriors basketball game, cheering and stomping until 10:00pm. All of which would probably kill me at this point.

People are happy to see me out in the world. They tell me I’m looking great! The teeny tiny bandaid at the the back of my neck doesn’t really represent anything. I say, the incision is small but deep. But it’s not just the incision that cut through the tough white fascia in my spine, the muscles and the drilling into my vertebrae. It’s the six weeks of unfathomable pain, of lying in bed trying to find a position, or walking around in ballet position, of counting the minutes before I surrendered and had to just get horizontal again (15 minutes on a really good day, 2 minutes on an average day).

Meanwhile I was forever experimenting with the pharmacy that was multiplying in my bathroom, trying to test the drugs to see which would bring relief without vomiting or psychosis or some other unpleasant side effect. Meanwhile my muscles, so long the pride of my body, have thinned down into thread. I have to be careful with what I lift. Even some plates are still too heavy. I’m better with saucers, single utensils, the little mugs and glasses, not the big ones. Pots and pans are out of the question. I won’t be hauling the turkey next week.

This week I stopped in at the Weight Watchers center to check in with Julie, the fabulous leader who has been filling for me since September. I told her I didn’t think I’d be back this week. Just sitting in a chair listening to her speak tired me out. I couldn’t imagine summoning the energy to stand up in  front of the meeting room. Not yet.

Last night I went back to the Writers Grotto because my beloved office mate was having a pre-nuptial party and I wanted to celebrate with her and the writers I’ve missed for so many months. I wanted to see my little space that I’d missed.

My succulent plants were long dead.

is this a metaphor for something?

is this a metaphor for something?

After a couple of hours of merriment (during which time I mostly slouched in the corner of a sofa, kind of dazed) I felt like I was melting. Unable to speak or hold up my head. I got home around 7:30 and went directly to bed.

Parties are fun, but they take a lot of energy!

Parties are fun, but they take a lot of energy!

This is how it is now. Better, so much better, but so far from where I was. I’ve taken a few walks this week, no more than a mile at a time. I slow-walk, always with a friend, whose arm I can grab if I start to wobble, half a mile to the “It’s Nice To Be Nice” bench. Then I rest. Then walk a half mile back to the car and again, directly to bed. It wipes me.

Alexandra accompanies me on the one-mile marathon

Alexandra accompanies me on the one-mile marathon

Still, I’m managing to get some things done. I’m checking things off my to-do list. Phone calls and getting stuff done that I never had time to do before. Small things.

I’m reading. And writing. Thinking about new directions for the new year.

I’ve started reading Roxana Robinson’s stunning novel, Sparta, and reading about the Marine returning home from Iraq, and how returning from his experience is so surreal and terrifying, how his loved ones want to welcome him back just as he was before.  I know that two months of a herniated disc is not really comparable to four years of war, but it’s been like a little war in my body. It was a shocking kind of attack like I’d never experienced before. Where everything I believed and knew about myself was called into question.

I’m putting my life back together but it’s so much slower and in smaller increments than I ever could have imagined.

 

 

 

Two Steps Forward, One Step Back November 6, 2013

Photo credit: The Commons/Flickr

Photo credit: The Commons/Flickr

I was feeling pretty pleased with myself when I went for that walk on Monday. Yeah! I thought. I’m finally getting out there! So yesterday I had a lovely visit with my friend Mara. She brought me delicious fish tacos and I made the big step to actually enjoy a meal at the kitchen table. I didn’t rush through it. We just kinda hung out, and ate and talked, and it was so NORMAL!

 Mmmm, fish tacos!

Mmmm, fish tacos!

Then I felt like I had to lie down. So I lay down on the couch and we visited some more, and then a guy came to show us some hardwood floor samples (a little renovation coming up) and I got up to inspect those. Then she was going to leave and I asked if she wanted to walk down the street with me. I was, again, feeling all superconfident and maybe a little bit show-offish (LOOK I CAN WALK DOWN THE STREET!) so we went to the end of the block.  I stopped to admire my mom’s persimmon tree in the front yard. And then it kinda hit me. You know that feeling you have when you’ve gone just a bit too far?

FIRST EVER persimmons on my mom's tree!

FIRST EVER persimmons on my mom’s tree!

I went right to bed after she left, and applied major ice package to my back. But I realized, as the hours went on, that I had really overdone it. DAMN. I mean come on. Shower, dress, eat lunch, one-block walk. Too much? Apparently so. It plagued me the rest of the evening and I was back to my regular painkiller dose. Bleah.

Today I’m taking it easier. Sigh. I’m so very tired of taking it easy.  Luckily, I have plenty of work to keep me occupied.

Yesterday morning I was feeling so optimistic, like, maybe I could avoid the surgery altogether. I know. I’ve been through this before. Yes. No. I don’t know.

The surgeon returns from vacation on Monday and then we will do the big reevaluation. But I’m saying, where I’m at now (physically) is not where I want to be.

I’ve been thinking a lot about tracking. Tracking (ie writing everything down) is a very big deal in Weight Watchers land. It gives so much INFORMATION and history and a way to really understand our situation. I admit I have not been tracking my food input very much. Basically, I’ve been eating whatever I can deal with, which is often not very much.

But I’ve been keeping a medicine and pain tracker. And it has been encouraging to see that I am much, much better than I was a month ago. It’s hard to remember this when I get impatient and bored and chomping at the bit. I’m definitely much better off. Just not where I ultimately want to be.

writing it all down keeps it real

writing it all down keeps it real

 

 

 
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